The Africa Journals
You can take the girl out of the country, but…
Not all those who wander are lost.” – J. R. R. Tolkien
Promptly at 7, I left my hotel room and the door closed behind me. Then, I unwittingly turned left rather than right in the hallway, thereby taking myself farther away from the elevators and instead finding the stairwell.
Oh, well, I thought. The mezzanine level is only a couple floors down and I need the exercise. I pushed open the door and starting descending the stairs. That’s when I realized I didn’t have my key card with me. It was held fast behind an impregnable hotel room door. Dang.
Oh, well, I’ll just go back and take the elevator to the lobby and get a new key card and then go to breakfast. That’s when I discovered the stairwell door had no handle to open it from the inside.
Oh, well, the ground floor lobby is just below the mezzanine. I’ll just walk down to the ground floor. And down I went. And down, and down, and down. Finally, there were no more stairs to go down and I was relieved to find a door with a crash bar to push and open the door. But, there was something at the top of the door I’d never seen before.
Holding the door closed was a cylinder, inside of which was a glass tube. “Break glass to open door,” read a sign. Ummm, never one to break glass intentionally, I instead pulled on a red plastic handle attached to a chain which was attached to…well, something up by that glass tube. The chain, still attached to the handle, came off in my hand.
I pushed on the crash bar. Nothing. I pushed again. Nothing. I reached up and broke the glass tube. Nothing. I tried to reattach the chain. It fell to the floor.
Not one to let a lit bit of adversity get the better of me, I stepped back three feet and kicked the goddamned door as hard as I could. Several times. By then I needed a shower.
Stairwells are not air conditioned. WTF? What if the hotel was on fire? How could people get out? What options did I have? Thinking of possible solutions (while kicking the door) was difficult because all I could think about was Brian’s voice saying:
Nobody knew where I was. Nobody could help me. I’m trapped in this wretched stairwell and Brian is going to be soooooo pissed off when I’m not PUNCTUAL for the coach trip to Mabula.
Rats. (Or, maybe I should say something more African, though I’m sure there are rats in Africa.)
PS: I did not cry.
PPS: There were photos of the stairwell, a door with multiple footprints on it, broken glass on the concrete floor, and a red handle with chain attached, but for some reason they were all out of focus.